Women in our society are not only aware of our perceived flaws — we’re obsessed with them. We spend countless hours and paychecks avoiding them or fixing them. We ruminate on our shortcomings day and night. They tend to consume us…and we let them. Achieving inner fulfillment can easily start to feel like a pipe dream.
As a 33 year old female living in Western culture, I’m definitely part of this group. This truth became especially evident when I was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy several years ago. Out of nowhere, I could no longer rely on my face to do what I wanted it to. My lips drooped, my eyelid and mouth were paralyzed and frozen open. Teaching my packed, 60-person yoga classes became embarrassing at best.
I couldn’t escape my facial “flaws.” They were suddenly given center stage and seemed to stand in opposition to finding inner fulfillment.
Fixing your “flaws” can put you on a cruel treadmill.
I did everything I could to try to avoid, then fix, then avoid, then fix my suddenly paralyzed face. The process was painful. I had to face the reality of my perception. Fixating on your looks has the power to ruin your life if you let it. It will leave you sprinting on a never-ending treadmill of insecurity and negativity, too exhausted to do anything but hate yourself.
Life’s too short to walk through it as if you’re not enough. I saw this firsthand when I watched my Mom take her last breath from breast cancer at an early age. “That’s it?” I thought. “We’re born on an inhale…and just die on an exhale?”
I believe there’s a better way. If you can learn to retrain your brain, think about what really matters to you, and celebrate your successes, you can stop obsessing about the small stuff, learn to live a life of which you’re proud and find inner fulfillment.
“Flaws” are subjective.
Let’s take a look at this idea of “flaws.” Please notice that I keep putting it in scare quotes. That’s 100% on purpose.
First of all, what the hell is a “flaw?” Well, to label something as a flaw, we have to be comparing it to an ideal. Obviously, our culture has a very specific understanding of beauty standards. However, these standards are subjective by nature, which means our idea of a flaw is also subjective.
I’ll say it again, in English this time. Flaws are only flaws because someone told us they were flaws. It’s critical to remember that “flaws are not fact.”
Now, don’t hear me wrong. I’m not calling you gullible or dumb for falling for the “flaw” story. We all do it. But I am telling you that you can reclaim that part of your story.
“Flaws” are big money that detracts from inner fulfillment.
There’s a 60 billion-dollar-a-year industry out there aimed at telling you via commercials and ads that what you are isn’t enough. Your face needs stuff to be better, your body needs stuff to be healthier. Even your poor fingernails aren’t enough…they need paint to look better.
Think of a little girl — perhaps your daughter or niece or sister. Would you criticize them for their flaws? No, of course not! So why don’t you give yourself that same kind of grace?
We forget that we came into this world perfect, which means without flaw. Nothing was given to us that we can’t handle or don’t already have the tools within us.
Rather than trying to fix your flaws and become a new person, I believe we can all unlock the part of us that’s always been perfect. It’s a process of remembering who you’ve always been. It’s just that a life experience of heartbreak and ridiculous expectations has made you forget.
Think about your values.
If we want to unlock ourselves, we need to start working backward — not focusing on what we hate about ourselves, but focusing on what we find important in life.
Let’s pretend you’re 105 years old, and you get to send a message to yourself right now. What do you think you would say?
When I often do this exercise, I see myself with tiny two-pound weights and a visor walking strong around my neighborhood kicking ass. Then, from that big picture lens of focus, it helps me consider my long-term values and goals.
- I want a family.
- Additionally, I want my legacy of giving back to be strong.
- At the end of each day, I want to know that I gave as much as I could to the people that needed and respected me.
I love this exercise because it helps you answer a few questions:
- How do you define success for yourself?
- What are you living for every morning?
- Are you proud of what you’re contributing?
- Do you feel like you have purpose and meaning?
- Where are you living from something outside of yourself?
- What is your connection to the greater good?
Now, after doing that thought exercise about values, think about your superficial “flaws” again. Does the wrinkle line in your forehead or your chipped nails still feel relevant?
Celebrate your successes.
I’m not telling you to stop buying makeup or stop working out. I’ve chosen a profession that makes me move my body every day. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel confident and healthy. For me, inner fulfillment is so much simpler when I am in top physical form.
However, doing it because you think you’re not already good enough is a lose-lose situation. It means you beat yourself up for being who you are. It means you work hard, but you don’t celebrate your successes because you don’t believe you deserve them.
I have a strong belief that reaching your goals requires celebration. Every workout completed, every step taken, every pound lost deserves congratulations.
Every day, show up and do a little bit towards that goal, whether it’s making a green drink in the morning instead of having a croissant or doing a class of some sort. After that, you can walk with confidence in yourself that you took a step toward the thing that you’re working at.
Measuring your progress toward your goal and celebrating the tiny step helps us change the definition of success. In most of our goals, inner contentment, healthy structure, and loving relationships…it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
I’m learning to stare at my paralyzed face.
I thought my life was over when I received a diagnosis of Bell’s palsy. The month before, I’d had the yoga career highlight of my life. My sponsorship and partnership as a Lululemon ambassador enabled me to teach at Wanderlust in Aspen over the Fourth of July weekend, the MAHA, the greatest stage for a master trainer like me.
And then, suddenly, the right side of my face was paralyzed.
I hated this new reality, but my hate wasn’t helping. I realized it’s exhausting to be mad at what I can’t control all the time. We have a choice to believe as if everything has meaning or as if nothing does.
Even though I couldn’t see any reason why I got Bell’s, I still trusted that there was a greater purpose for the story. It made my day-to-day more livable. It made staring at my disfigured paralyzed face easier to handle.
I still had thousands of unknown people to influence, thousands of half-smiles to inspire, and I became slightly encouraged to see what the world had in store for me. I don’t know if it was actually courage. It was probably just me being so depleted that I had nothing left to do but surrender.
When I did, I found that running toward what was important instead of away from what I feared made all the difference.
In the quest to find inner fulfillment, become your own advocate.
We’ve been imprinted with a certain level of what is pretty or successful. What if you could give up our culture’s understanding of a flaw and decide for yourself?
Get lost in something bigger than yourself. When you do, you forget to be hung up on the small things within yourself. You learn to adjust your energy and attention to what matters to us, we might find ourselves in an entirely new frame of mind.
True happiness is the conditioning of discovery and growth. So, cheers to the lifelong adventure you get to have with the coolest person you know — yourself.
For more advice on dealing with your “flaws,” you can find Cheers to Chaos on Amazon.